This week, contributor Rachel McGill will be writing a series about art and politics. Conversations With is a series review on PEN America’s State of Emergency commissioned art project that seeks voices from artists whose art has been a reflection of the current political climate.
To accompany Rachel’s reviews, I decided to create some art using the ‘ol Photoshop this time. As I mentioned before in this previous post, I’m recently acquainted with Adobe’s applications and have taken upon myself to practice using them (to get better acquainted, of course).
This photo was selected for it’s mirror like quality. Originally, there was a set of shoes at the top reflecting the person’s shadow on what appeared to be water. I changed the background of the water from aqua to a grey and removed the person’s shoes as they were detracting from the overall balance and tone of the composition. I then used the clone stamp tool to fill in the hole left behind from the removed shoes and added “shadow-like” shoes within the blank space.
This piece is for Rachel’s review on Identity. Click here to read her post!
Ever since I first read All Night In The New Country by Miriam Bird Greenberg, I have been itching to create some sort of accompanying illustration that would successfully represent what I see in my mind. although I haven’t achieved that result with this illustration, I know that as long as I start somewhere, I can work on honing my creativity and artistic skills.
All Night In The New Country is the post-apocalyptic poetry book that I didn’t know existed until a few years ago. I rediscovered it recently and I remembered how much I enjoyed it. Before that, it served as an inspiration when writing my short story, “Belly-Full and Tender Loins” — specifically the poem “I Passed Three Girls Killing A Goat” (thank you, Miriam Bird Greenberg, for creating such a vivid world that gave rise to my imaginings and that opened the possibility for my to create my own story).
For this review, I decided to pay homage to the poem that gave rise to my imagination by paying around with Illustrator to create a post-apocalyptic feeding scene (minus the actual eating part). This time, I played with the pencil tool and drew the tree, the mountain background, the stars, the shotgun, and the blood stain on the ground. I also used the pen tool (one of my favorite tools) to draw out the legs of a goat. Finally, I texturized the ground so that it appeared like sand.
So far, it’s okay; but more practice is needed! In the meantime…on to the next review!
Continuing on with illustrator, I decided to play around with watercolor brushes and pastel colors to create a wispy-like scene inspired by my review of Brain Fever by Kimiko Hahn.
Brain Fever is an interesting book in its own; and the poem “This Huge Surge Is A Kind Host” is what I chose to illustrate; so, I simply wanted to create something that I interpreted. I’m not entirely satisfied with this one yet and I may consider creating another from a different poem that I had in mind. Onwards!
In all honesty, reviewing Vulnerability by Luxi Xu was a challenge in itself. I had to be honest about her writing and about what I felt when reading her book. Nevertheless, I aimed to create an illustration that reflected what I interpreted from her work. This piece was inspired from one of Xu’s poems “Meaning Of Life”.
Vulnerability was written by a (then) 16 year old young person. Unfortunately, instead of being a book that celebrates the genius of a young writer, it was a book that only solidified the stereotypes of youth and so-called teenaged wisdom. I was saddened, disturbed, and disappointed — perhaps it was because the book’s accompanying press release advertised this book as the writings of a unique teenager, one who was wise beyond her years.
You can read my full thoughts about it here. In the meantime, below is my interpretation! I decided to create something geometrical; I also played around with different brushes.
For this review, I decided to create an abstract appeal that was inspired by “Sonnet 14” from nyrb’s translated edition of Louise Labé’s Love Sonnets & Elegies.
The book was written in 1555 France, during the height of the renaissance. The translation by Richard Siebruth greatly captures her message — one that I’ll say has a contemporary feel.
I decided to play around again with brushes and with grey tones. I also wanted to create something eerie and abstract. I can’t emphasize enough the connection of Labé’s writing to that of contemporary writers. I believe this is what makes her work powerful: an uncanny ability to write about timeless moments.
So; on to the next review!
Oh how I love Illustrator. For my latest book review, I created an accompanying artpiece inspired by the title poem “In Thailand It Is Night” from the book In Thailand It Is Night by Ira Sukrungruang.
Despite loving Illustrator, I am recently acquainted with its wonders. It’s been a while since I have allowed my creativity to emerge without pre-judging what I do and without allowing that voice in my head to say that my work is pitiful. I also may not consider myself an artist of any grand gesture; however, I do believe that all creators should embrace amateurism (I made that word up) because it’s important to continuously hone any craft — whether that be visual or written or oral — by continuously learning as much as you can from others and from yourself (and from what is termed “mistakes” — more like “learning opportunities” if you want to get cheesy about it!).
For this piece, I played around with brush strokes and types. Nothing too extravagant. I’ve always been drawn to artwork that is simple and abstract. I’m pleased with how it came out. After reading the poem “In Thailand It Is Night”, I decided to start creating art that accompanied the books that I’ve reviewed. I aim to continue doing that!
If you don’t know already, I’ve been in a mini-hiatus since the beginning of the year (well, since last year, but I won’t get into it now!), mostly spending my time working on my other WordPress, The Black Lion Journal. You can often find me here on Twitter and Facebook.
I’m so excited to say that I’ve been a busy bee learning new skills that I hope to start sharing here and on TBL Journal.
These skills are all about extending communication beyond just the written form; they’re about understanding that communication encompasses visual and creative elements as well as written and oral components.
I’m actively learning to be creative again; it’s a process that I’m looking forward to — and it’s a process that I’ll be documenting on Medium.
Finally; I really miss blogging!
Featured image by The Art of Melissa Purdon, inspired by one of my favorite films, Gladiator!
2017 started off wonderfully for the Black Lion Journal. I had the honor to interview Mr. Thaddeus Miles, creator of Faces: Up Close & Personal, on community, My Brother’s Keeper, and on what photography means to him. He is extremely knowledgeable about youth programs, being the leader of many at his job. Take a look at the interview to know more about this inspirational person.
I am also proud to place this interview alongside the other wonderful interviews I have had so far, all with talented and humble individuals, in the list of interviews page. Take a look at the other individuals I have had the honor in interviewing.
Interview | Thaddeus Miles on the Black Lion Journal
Before I started my journal The Black Lion, I was taking an undergraduate course on publishing and editing; and here, I learned what would become the beginnings of online journal management. I’ve since documented my overall journey to where I am now, including what I did during my graduate years, when I was researching digital communications.
For the undergraduate course, I was part of a team of seven and we had a genre fiction journal called Parallaxed Journal. We’ve all since disbanded to greater things, but for that journal, I interviewed author James Matlack Raney about his expertise and experience in self-publishing, and about his debut Jim Morgan And The King of Thieves.
JM Raney is a marvelously talented and intelligent person — how could I let his words be hidden? His knowledge is too much to pass up. Below is the interview dubbed the “self-Publishing Guide.” For part 1 of the interview, where JM Raney talks about self-publishing, click here.
— Christina Lydia
Interview With James Matlack Raney, Author Of Jim Morgan And The King Of Thieves
Why do you want to be a writer?
I suppose the simplest reason is that I love writing! I find so much joy in taking the pictures and thoughts in my mind and making them real through the power of words. I guess if I were talk about why I want to write as a profession though, I would say it would simply be for the chance to add my voice to the human conversation – a small voice, granted, but a tiny part of the chorus nevertheless.
What is the first thing that you wrote that made you feel and think that writing is what you want to do?
Well, the first piece I ever wrote with the intention of actually doing something “real” with it was a screenplay that may have been the most horrid screenplay ever to grace Microsoft Word (I didn’t even know what Final Draft was back then!) My first novel wasn’t much better to be honest, but I still enjoyed the journey from the first word to “The End” so much that I knew I was hooked for life.
How important to you is self-discipline in writing?
It’s nearly everything! Truthfully, it may even be more important than talent. To begin with, you must have the patience to sit down and write 80,000 words the first time, which is a challenge for a beginner, I can assure you! Then you must be willing to go back and write over those same 80,000 words again, and again…and again – until your story says just what you want it to say. That takes discipline, but, as hard as it is, I think that’s the part I’ve come to enjoy the most.
When you came into our class you mentioned how Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is a very special and personal story, one that you really wanted to tell. What advice can you tell writers about sticking to a story they want to tell?
Know what you want to say. I think it’s fairly easy to come up with the type of story you want to tell: action, adventure, historical, romance, etc. But what gives those stories their meaning and their heart is what you want to say through your plot and characters. It doesn’t have to be deep or even especially unique, nor does it necessarily need to be any sort of political or religious message to beat people over the heads with – but I believe at least some meaning needs to be there.
How close is Jim Morgan’s character to your personality? What are five attributes you can find from his character that reflects your personal philosophy?
Wow, that’s a tough one! Jim is a character in transition, so really he possesses a lot of the characteristics I’ve had throughout my life (even the bad ones!) At the start he’s very naïve, selfish, and overly sensitive, but as the adventure goes on, Jim finds a real love for his friends and the courage to stand up for them. While I’m not so proud of the first three, I like to think I have some of the latter two in me as well.
I know that Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is classified as a middle-grade novel. Yet there are very grown-up moments that young adults and adults can understand perfectly. For your sequel, who is your potential audience going to be? Will you still aim for a middle-grade novel?
When I write, I usually just try to create the best novel I can for any reader. Certainly, I’m trying to write the type of novel I loved when I was a boy, so I won’t stray too far from that audience. But the sequel does grow a bit darker and has quite a bit more action, so I’m hoping to keep the audience engaged as they grow up and perhaps even reel in older readers as the series progresses.
What will readers look forward to in the sequel of Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves? Will we know more about Jim’s father and Captain Dread Steele? Is Jim Morgan going to be older or about the same age?
About a year has passed between the first novel and the start of the sequel, so Jim is almost thirteen. If I were to use one word to describe the next book it would be “more:” more pirates, more magic, more adventure! However, I’m especially excited for this novel because I think I’ve been able to include all of that fun, popcorn stuff and yet still keep the emotional center intact, and those are really the best kind of stories.
In less than 5 sentences, how would you tell your readers what Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves is about?
I think I can do it one! Jim Morgan is the story of a young boy who loses his father, yet still tries as hard as he can to grow up into a man of whom his father would have been proud. That’s the story; everything else is just for fun!
What advice would you give people who would want to grasp the skill of writing?
Well, first start by reading as much as you can! You won’t even know what you want your writing to sound like until you’ve read that first novel or short story or poem that’s whisked you off into its own world. Read, read, read! But for the writing part I suggest this: you need to write, but start small. Start with short stories to get warmed up and then work your way slowly toward longer and longer pieces. Learn about story structure and the art and craft of writing! There are so many books out there on those subjects. You don’t have to read them all, but give yourself at least a basic education! And lastly, find a group of trusted reviewers that will give you BRUTALLY HONEST feedback. Then take that feedback to heart and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!
¡PSST! Interview © 2013 Christina Lydia